Bluegrass music must prove to be effective against aging since bluegrass promoter John Tandie “J.T.” Shealy looks nowhere near his 81 years.
Brevard’s Mr. Bluegrass has promoted the musical genre for years, in the process tempting top acts in the country to perform in Titusville, a city not typically recognized as a mecca for this music.
Last year was a nightmare for impresarios such as Shealy, but he is back in action with a full lineup of performances that should keep bluegrass fans delighted.
Shealy honed his passion for bluegrass in his native South Carolina.
“People couldn’t afford to go to concerts, so it was standard to get together in small groups and listen to bluegrass,” said the Mims resident.
Lured by jobs in the fledgling space program, Shealy’s father moved his seven children to Mims in 1957, just as J.T. graduated from high school.
After a stint in the Air Force and a few years working for Pan Am, Shealy said he was “drafted” to work at the First National Bank of Titusville, a job that taught him how to gauge small businesses. When the chance to purchase a furniture store arose, Shealy knew he had a solid business opportunity. He was right. For 38 years, he ran Home Furniture, a go-to store in North Brevard.
“We didn’t get rich, but we made a good living,” he said.
With four friends, he also launched the Community National Bank, a business he ran for 13 years. After several iterations, the bank is now part of the Regions network.
To indulge his passion for bluegrass, Shealy decided to convert an empty back room in the furniture store to a concert venue.
“We had 75 chairs, all from scratch and dent,” he said.
The modest concert hall didn’t dissuade top bluegrass bands in the country from stopping by for an intimate concert and a highly appreciative audience.
Shealy’s bluegrass concerts continue to draw fans well outside the Brevard County line.
“There is no one doing indoor bluegrass concerts,” Shealy said.
The furniture store concert hall is history, but Shealy finds venues such as churches eager to host his concert season, which begins in October and ends in March. He has slated multi-award-winner Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road to kick off this year’s series Oct. 14. Joe Mullins and Radio Ramblers, Little Roy & Lizzy, Fast Track, the Amanda Cook Band and the Appalachian Road Show round out the schedule.
When not organizing concerts, Shealy can be found at the gym, cycling or playing golf, and, of course, listening to the ageless music known as bluegrass.
For more, see jtsbluegrass.com.